Turning help: How to avoid collapsing inward

Pretty new unicyclist here - only been riding about a month and a half on a Nimbus Oracle 26. I’m doing great riding straight, freemounting, and I can even make “navigational” turns to follow a sidewalk, trail, or to move in/out of traffic. However, if I try to make a big turn, as in to U-turn on a road, it all goes to hell.

When I start turning, I feel like the unicycle collapses inward and I lose my straight alignment with the wheel. It feels like I’m now in a “V” shape, with my shoulders and wheel outside the turn, and my seat/hips inside it. The seat seems like it pops to the inside leg side of my groin too. (See below.) As soon as this happens, the turn gets so tight I can’t recover, and off I come.

Any tips for how to stay in alignment with the uni and make a large radius, smooth turn?

In a possibly related note, it feels like I have a hard time staying centered on my seat - even when pedaling straight. The seat feels like it wants to rest to one side or the other of my groin instead of squared up underneath me. I’ve triple checked seat height (by the heel on the pedal with a straight leg measure), and I’m up about as tall as is reasonable, and I’ve changed seat height up and down from there with no effect. I’m sitting on the seat, as I can feel my weight on the family jewels and my feet are on the verge of sliding on the pedals. So, not sure what else to do to keep the seat centered.

Any suggestions on either/both fronts?

When you make a turn, you do, in fact, make kind of a “V” as you describe. The unicycle must lean in order to make the turn, and it is your “bottom half” that makes it turn. At the same time, in order to keep from falling off, you must keep your weight shifted the other way, so your center of gravity is in a line above the contact point with the ground. So it makes kind of a V. You notice this more with the bigger wheels, I find, and since you have started out on a 26", it probably seems pretty strange. It will get better with practice.
On the second point, I’m guessing you feel this most often when riding along the side of a crowned road surface. This can be very disconcerting at first (and again, it seems to be more pronounced on the bigger wheels). I spent a long time feeling like I was almost turning uphill all the time to compensate for even a slight slant in the road surface. Again, over time this gets to be less noticeable.
The phrase “hours in the saddle” works to fix most problems, I find.
Good luck, and post your progress (and pics/videos).

You could try turning your seat a small amount to see if that helps with sitting on the center.

It’s good to know that the V should be happening. That’s a bit of a relief. However, how do I stop it from becoming “terminal”? Basically, once I feel the unicycle “snap” to the inside and the V forms, I’m done for. No amount of leaning, clawing my shoulders to the outside, or willing myself out of the turn seems to help.

So, is there something I should be doing with my trunk or one of my legs to stop that V from getting to the unrecoverable stage? Any tricks that worked for any of you to get you making smooth, larger radius turns?

Hmmmm… Interesting thought I didn’t consider. I’ll have to see if there’s a correlation there. I’ll get back to you on that.

Thanks for the ideas. I’ll also see if I can get a video or two of my turning failures and maybe someone can give me ideas based on that.

Tried that today, did not help. It did get me thinking about keeping my knees in, which seemed to help some, however, it did not help with the larger seat-centering problem.

After paying closer attention today, it doesn’t seem to relate to the slope/crown of the road, but does seem to correlate to the way I free mount. The seat always seems offset to my left leg, which is the one that has a foot on the pedal before I mount. Essentially, when the seat is between my legs before mounting, it seems to get shifted left before mounting, and stays that way throughout the ride. So, it feels like the uni is always leaning left, and I have to continually lead with my left shoulder to keep on track.


Of course, this may be totally unrelated to the original reason for the post (turning without collapsing into a death spiral), but it’s equally troubling to me right now. So, if I can solve either of these problems, I’ll be a much happier person. :angry:

I realize that this is the answer to nearly every uni related question and it isn’t all that helpful but perhaps these issues are things that only iron themselves out over time.

I had an issue when transitioning to a 29er, it pulled in one direction and I had to put in a concerted effort to hold a straight line. I was constantly checking the straightness of the seat and adjusting the seat angle but to no avail. At the time I was convinced that the wheel was slightly crooked in the frame. After time the problem sorted itself out, no change in seat angle, no change in road camber, no other adjustments to the equipment, just time in the saddle.

As far as the seat centering problem being propagated through a mount… have you tried standing on the pedals for the first few revolutions after a mount? Or maybe mounting, adjusting your feet on the pedals, and then standing on the pedals and re-situating on the seat? Maybe you could experiment with having both feet in the exact same location on either pedal and having each foot in a different location on either pedal (like one foot closer to the crank arm on one side, further from the crank arm on the other).

You shouldn’t be putting any weight on the family jewels when you are sitting on the seat. They should be safely …tucked… out of the way before you sit down.

As far as the turning problem… maybe start out making a slow, long u-turn (like in a space that’s wider than the road you’ve been practicing on) and then slowly tightening the radius up as you get more consistent. I get the “V” shape thing going on tight turns but if it’s a slow, wide arched turn the “V” thing falls out of the equation. So, even larger radius attempts?

Mileage may vary but I find that tossing in some variety into my practices has helped me get better with other aspects of riding, even with completely unrelated skills. So switch over to practicing sharp 90 degree turns (like follow a sidewalk on a street corner) for a while, maybe even switch over to completely unrelated activities like practice riding off a curb, and then come back to your u-turn practices.

There’s never a wasted moment on a uni, you are always learning. For me I often have to look back a whole year before I realize what, if any progress has been made. Some are naturals but I think that for most of us progress with unicycling is a near imperceptible thing with an occasional aha moment sprinkled here and there.

Okay, here’s another saddle thought, what saddle are you using? it could be undersized. I know for example that the torker CX saddle is way to small for anyone much older than 10 and a real pain to sit on (no pun intended). Withing reason a decent saddle is pretty much impossible to sit on improperly.

Just got back from riding my new 36 and was thinking about the V in the tight turns. It is really strong when trying tight turns on the 36. It was there on my 29, but not as strong. After about a half hour of left hand turning I was able to get rid of the V a couple of times. It happened when I leaned forward as well as leaning in during the turn. That allowed me to pick up speed while in the turn so I come out of it nice and level from the outward force of the turn.

If I don’t lean forward I can’t pick up speed to bring me back out of the turn and I end up doing the V and the turn isn’t smooth.

On wider turns I don’t do a V because the outward force of the turn is balance with my inward lean.

Now I need to learn to turn to the right. :slight_smile:

I also have a shifting problem with my seat. I am thinking of changing the seat tilt. I have my tilted as far forward as possible. It is very comfortable for the jewels. But doesn’t feel firm under me.

My best seat for turning was on my Torker LX 24’. It was wider in the front and I could push the front of the seat with my inner thigh to keep it in alignment. The downside is that my inner thighs would bleed on longer rides.

On the seat problem. It sound like it is too high. My legs is no where near straight when my foot is on the pedal. It is straighter than it used to be, as I learned to ride better I would raise the seat. But even now it isn’t straight.

And switching to a new 36 I lowered the seat so my leg is a little more bent than it should be. For learning a new unicycle it just feels more comfortable. As I get better at it I will probably raise the seat so my leg is closer to fully extended.

I wonder if the seat is too narrow for your physique. Are you a big guy? Bow-legged perhaps? :o I assume the seat is just the standard KH that came with the uni? Could one leg be longer than the other?

I have an airseat that’s superwide and I’m moderate-to-small height/weight so I’ve never run into the problem you describe.

Wow. Lots of good things to try here. I’ll have to head to some abandoned tennis courts near me and try 'em all out. There, I can do wide, fast turns on a flat surface. I’ll let you know what I find.

For the suggestion of standing up on the pedals after mounting to allow the seat to re-center, I wish I could! I keep trying, and usually ball it up as soon as I try to stand up. I’ll start spending some time learning to hop to make this a viable approach.

Interesting idea about the seat being too narrow. I’m not a really big guy, but maybe the KH freeride is too narrow (or I’m not skilled enough…). Perhaps I’ll try to fatten up the sides a bit until I’m more comfortable.

Thanks everyone!

Your tire can have a big effect on how the unicycle handles in turns. The best tires are smooth with a rounded profile; the worst are knobby with a square profile.

Great wisdom here.

I agree that the answer very often is to simply ride more. While having the right cognitive approach is certainly important, kinesthetic learning is king on the uni.

When turning,you need to look in the direction you intend going.Turn your head,shoulders and hips as you turn.When doing a tight 360 turn I usually pedal harder with my outside foot. I think the problem with the saddle leaning to one side as your turning is that you’re not leaning with the unicycle .The unicycle is supposed to lean as you turn,but as a beginner you may be a bit rigid as you turn.

LanceB is correct about road camber/slant. Road camber will cause you to twist as you cycle,even on a straight road and will cause the saddle to press against your inner thigh.
I had trouble with that as a beginner and just like you, I thought that there was something wrong with my set up.

One last thing . Check that your tyre pressure is high enough.

Hope this helps!

I agree with this advice. There is nothing to hold you up if you don’t keep your speed. So weight forward a little. Think of accelerating through the turn.

Take up MUni! Mountain Bike trails make you turn right 50% of the time.:wink:

I still need a full two lane road to pull a 180 degree U-turn on my 36er. It is a three stage process. First, if it’s a wide swooping turn, I can keep my left hand on the Shadow handle (from which it rarely leaves) but if the turn is tight, I do it more with my hips and thighs so I let go of the handle all together. Second, get way over to the right and swivel my hips hard to the left to make my first turn (hopefully about 90 degrees) so now I’m heading straight for the ditch. Third swivel my hips hard to the left one last time just before I plummet off the end. It’s a whole process. I’ve yet to pull it off in high gear. It always requires a down shift.

Where I have been practicing on my new Coker there are also dirt roads with plenty of rocks and puddles. The Coker feels natural on that surface. It rolls over eveything. I can’t wait to take it on a single track trail. Although, on my 29 Drak, it was hard to get used to trees whizzing by. (The whizzing is a relative term. Some people on this site might add “slowly” to it.)

I keep my left hand on my pi bar for left turns and they sometime come out smoothly. But my right turns have a few more steps then yours. First, when approaching a right turn I tell my self “you can do this”. Second, if there is an option I avoid it altogether and turn right or keep going straight. Third, if there is not option I almost stall thinking about it then 4) I use a twisting stomping combination that almost removes my foot from the pedal. Then 5) when I come out of the turn I realize my seat is not straight under me and my right foot is crooked I say a couple words that should not be repeated and 6) I try to straighten everything out but UPD instead, and finally, 7) I walk, since I can’t freemount on soft ground yet, back to some pavement and decide to find a path with only left turns. :slight_smile:

Althought there has been some improvement. I did change the tilt of my seat and it fits better. I also replaced the screws on my seat post clamp with ones that I can tighten better. Part of the problem with those stomping twisting right hand turns is that seat would actually twist under me with enough force. Now it doesn’t.

Wanted to check back in with a progress report.

Went to a local abandoned tennis court (perfectly flat) to work on turns and things, and a LOT of your advice was spot on. Things I realized (posted for anyone in the future who finds themselves in the same place):

  1. Getting in front of the wheel is a BIG deal. Someone talked about speed through the turn, and that was indeed a key. Even if I wasn’t going fast, if I was comfortably ahead of the wheel, when the V formed between my body and the uni, it was recoverable. I think I was getting tentative and slowing down going into my turns because I was having so much trouble. Then, as soon as the wheel got in front of me and tilted in, I was in UPD city.

  2. Pressure on the up-stroke by the inside leg helped a LOT. If I focused on shoving the inside knee hard against the saddle as it came up, that really allowed me to keep the uni from falling further into the turn. It was almost as if I made a mental note to “pop” the seat up from the inside on every pedal stroke.

  3. The business with the seat is likely because of the crown/slope of the roads and paths I’ve been riding. I think it’s always been there, but I’m finally comfortable enough so I’m not spending all my focus on just staying upright. :smiley: Now I can relax a bit and I’m noticing when my feet or seat are not perfectly set. Indeed, when I got on the flat tennis courts, that problem mostly went away, and was easily fixable on the fly when I noticed it.

So, thanks again to everyone for the encouragement and advice. Once I sat down and thought about what you said and did a bit of reading on counter steering, it all made sense. My turns ain’t beautiful yet, but I could do laps around the tennis courts tonight - something that was not possible last week.


This thread was of particular interest to me because it sounded exactly like my situation and at the time nothing seemed to help. What’s been posted about leaning and counter balancing is what I eventually confirmed for myself. At first I did not think any of the factors previously mentioned were issues; I did not feel my body was leaning to the right but subconsciously I was. I tested my theory by drastically and intentionally leaning to the left, and immediately my turning problem reversed itself.

Lesson here is to try different things even if you feel they do not apply or may not be effective. There may be factors that you did not realize were in play.